An Experimental Test of Rubinstein's Theory of Bargaining


This note reports the results of an experiment which was designed
to test Rubinstein's(1982) theory of bargaining. We were particularly
interested in how it would compare with the hypothesis that bargainers
tend to split a pie 50-50. We duplicated Binmore, Shaked and
Sutton's(1986) result that the equal split hypothesis is rejected in a two
round game with alternating offers. However, we show that in similar
games with more than two rounds Rubinstein's theory is also rejected.
Thus their conclusion, that subjects behave as "gamesmen" (i.e. in a
manner consistent with the predictions of game theory), was premature.
In experiments with varying numbers of rounds, our first players
consistently offered their opponents shares equal to the value of the
second round pie. In a two round game this behaviour by definition
yields offers consistent with Rubinstein's theory. In games with more
rounds it does not.
In each game, the majority of first players chose to make the same
offer. In fact, the regularity of their behaviour is perhaps our
strongest result. While neither Rubinstein's theory nor the equal split
model explain our findings, the regularity of our subjects' behaviour
suggests that there is hope of finding a model of bargaining which

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
The American Economic Review, Vol. 78, No. 4, Sept., 1988
Working Papers